If you are looking for an opportunity for employment after your release, and you have an interest in the Merchant Marines, you will need to have a Merchant Mariner Certificate.
The issue is whether or not a felon can get a Merchant Mariner Certificate.
Let’s answer that question here.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:
- What Is a Merchant Marine?
- What Is a Merchant Mariner Credential?
- Requirements to Get a Merchant Mariner Credential
- Background Check?
- Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
- An Opportunity for Felons?
- Recommended Action
What Is a Merchant Marine?
The Merchant Marines are a group that are part of the Merchant Navy, a fleet of ships owned and registered by a nation but separate from the military.
Many countries use their Merchant Navy to aid the military during war, transporting goods and equipment.
Those who staff the Merchant Navy are known as Merchant Marines. A Merchant Marine works aboard a ship that carries cargo across oceans and lakes. Many have previously served in the military during periods of war.
Some specialize in a particular field, such as navigation, communications, or heavy-equipment operations.
The Merchant Marines have a system of ranks and specialties which corresponds to that of the military and ranging from a captain or ship master down to a sailor or deckhand.
A Merchant Seaman typically completes formal training and an apprenticeship before being hired to work as an employee on a ship. Often, someone is trained in the military, but may also receive private training. There are seven formal Merchant Mariner training programs in the U.S.
To become a Merchant Marine, you must meet the following criteria, including:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be a U. S. citizen with a valid U.S. passport with at least seven months remaining prior to expiration
- Have a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) and/or Department of Defense Common Access Card (CAC) with a minimum of 10 months remaining prior to expiration
- Have a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC), issued by the United States Coast Guard to mariners sailing aboard all U.S. vessels with at least ten months remaining before expiration
- Pass a physical examination
- Be drug free and submit to urinalysis
- Be able to obtain and maintain a security clearance
- Be able to speak, understand, read, and write English
What Is a Merchant Mariner Credential?
Now that we understand what a Merchant Marine is, how about a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC)?
An MMC is issued by the U.S. Coast Guard that allows you to serve as a Merchant Marine and work on a transport ship. It combines parts of a Merchant Mariner’s license and certificate of registry.
To serve as a full-fledged Merchant Marine, you are required to obtain a Merchant Mariner Credential as part of completing that training.
This is like a certificate that you might obtain after finishing any type of formal training whether for a trade or other similar position. It indicates you have met the qualifications for that position.
But if you read on, you will see that there is a bit more to it than just finishing a training program.
Requirements to Get a Merchant Mariner Credential
So just how do you get an MMC?
The first requirement is to complete Merchant Marine training. It is not automatic to receive an MMC just because you finished training. It is something you must apply for and meet strict standards for.
You must begin by obtaining a Transportation Workers Identification Credential. This is available from the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). Then, you must complete an application, CG-719B Application for Merchant Mariner Credential. You must also submit a CG-719C Conviction Statement. This pertains to your criminal record.
Of course, you must provide honest answers to all questions but especially for those pertaining your criminal history. All information will be sent to the National Maritime Center (NMC) for processing. After verifying citizenship, among other things, the NMC will want to know about your history of criminal convictions.
This will help to determine if your character and life habits make you a safe and suitable person to be employed aboard a ship.
Yes, as you can expect, you must go through a background check as part of getting an MMC.
As mentioned above, this originates with the Safety and Suitability Branch of the Merchant Marines. They turn to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as the primary source for conducting a background investigation.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, your safety and suitability for service as a Merchant Marine will be determined through this background check.
The TSA oversees all activity related to the transportation area, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines. This agency will conduct a threat assessment on you to determine any potential danger that you might pose to U.S. national security and the maritime industry. The threat assessment will focus on a variety of serious felonies that might be on your record from at least the past seven years.
Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
Of course, the type of felony will make a difference,
There are circumstances in which you may not be able to obtain an MMC. You may not be certified as a Merchant Marine if you don’t report:
- Previous security clearance issues (revocation of security clearances)
- Financial debts
- Previous felony convictions in the past 10 years for which you served more than one year
Felonies that could result in denial of a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) from the Coast Guard include such crimes as:
- Money laundering
- Controlled substances
- Motor vehicle offenses
The Coast Guard may step in and conduct a criminal history and may even examine your driver’s license if it has been suspended because of a DUI.
A DUI can prevent you from getting a Merchant Mariner Credential for three years after a DUI conviction. To overcome this, you must provide proof of completion of an accredited alcohol rehabilitation program before becoming eligible.
After three years since the conviction, regulations indicate that an assessment will not be necessary if your driver’s license is still valid. As a felon with a record including serious convictions, you may be seen as lacking in moral character, which is an essential trait for the Merchant Marines.
These serious crimes include:
- Child molestation
- Disorderly conduct
- Reckless driving
After all of this, the Merchant Marines will assess your moral character and fitness to serve as a Merchant Marine.
The evaluation doesn’t seem as though it will ever end.
In determining your moral character Merchant Marines will look at:
- Type of crime and number of conviction
- How recent the conviction is
- Age at which the crime was committed
- Evidence of repeated criminal activity
- Connection between the crime and the legal operation of a vessel
- Character references from responsible individuals
- Length of time since release from incarceration
Whether or not you become eligible to receive an MMC after all of that will depend on:
- Nature of the crime
- Proof of completion or an accredited drug or alcohol rehabilitation program
- Active participation in a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
- Character references to attest to an applicant’s reliability and suitability for employment
- Steady employment
- Completion of all aspects of sentencing
An Opportunity for Felons?
Now, if you have passed the background check by the TSA and the Merchant Marines have determined that your moral character is acceptable, you could be able to serve as a Merchant Marine.
Remember above all it is important to be honest in filling out an application for a Merchant Mariner Credential. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable by jail time. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could lead you back to prison.
We often state that having your record expunged can be a valuable step to take for many reasons related to getting a job, a certificate, or a license.
This, however, is not one of those opportunities.
The regulations clearly indicate that an expunged felony record can only clear you in getting an MMC if there was a mistake made in your conviction through the court in which you were tried and sentenced.
That is another indication of how serious the Merchant Marines are regarding your moral character when even an expungement will not suffice to establish your honesty and strength of character.
It would be a major challenge, but it might be worth it if you want to obtain an MMC.
Give yourself the best chance for success through your honesty. You can show the Merchant Marines that you are trustworthy and are a person of integrity in spite of the mistakes you have made that got you into legal difficulties in the first place.
You don’t have to be defined by the crime but in how you recover from it.
What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a Merchant Mariner Credential with a felony? What was that like and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.